This post is Part 2 of the article I started yesterday about using your Avios points to fly long-haul with airberlin. Part 1 can be found here. Part 3 tomorrow will focus on how to book partner airline award on ba.com.
Things to think about before booking airberlin …
As we saw yesterday when looking at the Avios and taxes required for an airberlin Avios ticket, some routes are a good deal and some are a bad deal compared with flying directly on BA from London. The stand-out deal is probably Berlin to Abu Dhabi, which is just 50,000 Avios plus £48 taxes in Business Class, return.
Here are the key points to consider before you book on airberlin:
Avios and cash needed: Some destinations, such as Abu Dhabi from Berlin, require fewer Avios than using BA for London – Abu Dhabi because it is a shorter flight and this puts it in a cheaper Avios pricing zone. Most airberlin routes need the same number of Avios as BA, eg 80,000 in business class to New York. Los Angeles, as an example, actually needs more Avios than BA. All routes offer lower taxes, however.
Transit costs: You obviously need to fly to Germany to start your trip, which adds to the cost. For a destination such as New York, this will mean you end up using more Avios than the equivalent BA flight (since getting to Berlin would be 9,000 Avios return) or spending cash on a connecting flight.
2-4-1: You cannot use an American Express 2-4-1 voucher on airberlin redemptions. If you have one of these vouchers, it will almost certainly be a better deal to stick with a BA flight.
APD: If you fly BA or airberlin from the UK to Germany to connect, and have both flights on the same ticket, you will be liable for long-haul business class Air Passenger Duty. This is £134 or £166 or £188 per person for business class, depending on destination. This wipes out a lot of the saving over flying directly on BA to your destination.
Re-routing: However, if you travel to Germany on a separate ticket to avoid APD and are delayed, airberlin has no liability to you and can refuse to re-route you. You may need to build in an overnight stay in Germany to avoid any risk of misconnecting, which again adds to the cost.
Seat: The airberlin business class seat is nowhere near as comfortable as the BA fully-flat Club World, especially for overnight flights. They also do not have lounges which are equivalent to those at Heathrow. Here is the long-haul business class seat, which only reclines to 170 degrees:
However, according to this Business Traveller article, airberlin will soon be replacing the seats on its Abu Dhabi flights with those used by its partner Etihad. These are fully lie-flat and would represent a real improvement:
At the end of the day, you need to consider the trade-off between the Avios needed, the taxes required, the extra cost and time required to take a connecting flight, the risk of misconnecting and the comfort of the airberlin business class seat. Oh, and seat availability of course!
And if you want to travel to Cuba, Curacao, Fort Myers, the Dominican Republic or Mombasa then it is a non-issue, because BA doesn’t fly to these places anyway!
Part 3 of this article tomorrow will focus on how to search for and book partner reward availability on ba.com.